Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pre-Game Warm-Up: Hell on Film

Although our new series revels in writhing in the rings representing Dante's Inferno, none of the nine classics we will soon ever so proudly be presenting actually deal with the fiery plain of torture and suffering.


Thankfully, cinema has provided us with numerous depictions of hell since its inception and as a means of revving up for this unprecedented Classics program we have the following 6(66) suggestions for your viewing pleasure as you while away the days longing for the familiar smell of your own personal hell, Auditorium 10 at the Metro.  Enjoy!

First we time travel back to 1943 when Don Ameche arrived at Hell's reception area, pleading his case for inclusion in director Ernst Lubitsch's Heaven Can Wait.

In 1960 Japanese horror director Nobou Nakagawa set out to paint the most vivid version of Hell in his aptly named film, Hell (Jigoku).  If deceit, bloodshed and lots of eyeball-gouging are your bag, look no further, my man!

The first of our two animated offerings is in fact not from a film but from the greatest television series of all time, the Simpsons.  In the show's fifth season, Homer Simpson sold his soul for a doughnut, in the annual Halloween-themed Treehouse of Horror episode.  The fact that evangelical neighbor Ned Flanders turns out to be the devil, may be the greatest reveal in the history of storytelling.  Take that Wizard of Oz!

The second animated hell comes courtesy of purported purveyor of sugar-coated dreams, Walt Disney, in 1940's incredible Fantasia.  In the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence, Chernabog, diety of slavic descent, rises to wreak havoc on a small village at midnight.  Although not exactly a depiction of hell (it's more of a hell-on-earth) the sequence deserves inclusion due to its influence, artistic achievement and the fact that it is easily the scariest slice of film out of this line-up.

Hell wouldn't be nearly as much fun without the witty banter of Mr Allen Konigsberg (he's definitely on the invite list for my arrival party in Hell).  In 1997's Deconstructing Harry Allen made an initial trip down below to get a feel for the place and who did he by chance happen to meet?  None other than Billy Crystal.  That seems about right.

Finally, in 1991 a sequel to a much-beloved cinema classic was released.  Like Deconstructing Harry, the film wore its Bergman allusions on its sleeve.  The protagonists, who had previously traveled through time, now voyaged across dimensions and galaxies, having philosophical conversations with God before bringing peace to the universe through the undeniable power of song.  Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey may be the defining film of my generation.  Yes way.

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